Juneau Gym’s Future Uncertain

Outside the Rock Dump. Photo: Juneau Empire

Sometime before July 1st, Juneau, Alaska’s only climbing gym, The Rock Dump, needs to find a new home. The gym has been in its current location since opening, and now, after ownership changes and the end of a sweetheart of a lease, the gym is being forced to relocate or go out of business.

The 11,000 square foot gym was opened by Matthew Cecil in 2001. He sold the building in 2012 to Alaska Coach Tours, who then rented it to Juneau Climbing and Recreation, a new non-profit formed by local climbers, which took over operations of the gym.

Since the transition, the future of the gym has been uncertain. The JCR board wrote in an open letter to the community, “The partnership was intended to be short-term, but every year Alaska Coach continued to renew the lease and to subsidize the rent.” They went on to write, “The Rock Dump would not have been able to remain open for the last 4+ years if it had not been for the support of Alaska Coach Tours.”

When Alaska Coach Tours initially bought the building they didn’t have immediate needs for it, so rather than keeping it unoccupied, they agreed to rent the space to JCR for less than market value, until the operators could find another location.

Unfortunately, that search did not turn up any viable options, and time is running out. Last November Alaska Coach Tours informed JCR that they couldn’t continue subsidizing the climbing gym, whose rent does not cover the company’s mortgage on the building.

According to the Juneau Empire, Alaska Coach Tour’s president, Dennis McDonnell, said that the company had put development for the building plans on hold for years “without any regrets”. They company felt that helping to keep the town’s only rock climbing gym open was the right thing to do for the community. “We are more than satisfied with the thought that we helped keep this gym going both operationally and financially,” McDonnell wrote.

In a Tuesday phone call to Juneau Empire, JCR board member Tyler Gress said the organization is looking for a profitable alternative, which could mean downsizing to a bouldering gym. A new building comparable to their current location would cost upward of $1 million, according to Gress. That is beyond the organizations reach; the gym has not been profitable for years and was only able to stay in business because of Alaska Coach Tour’s generous support.

McDonnell has now agreed to allow the group to stay in the building until July 1, giving JCR a little more time to find an alternative. Gress said the group’s priority right now is maintaining continuity for members: They want to find a space to move into right away so they can transition their members to a new facility without a break in service.

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